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2020 Season

With Pieces Back, The Iowa State Cyclones Are Looking For A Breakout Season

Iowa State has some key starters back in 2020, but can they make a leap forward this season?



Getty Images - Peter G. Aiken

As the start of Big 12 football nears, we wrap up our look at each team in the conference. Throughout summer and now into the fall, we’ve been previewing the entire conference, providing an overview of the offense, defense, and special teams. Included here as well is a projected depth chart, with returning starters in bold.

Last season saw the Cyclones start out slow and slog through the month of September before they made more of a statement in Big 12 play. Though they were considered a possible dark horse, Iowa State found themselves at 2-2 before reeling off three big wins with an average margin of victory of 19.7 points per game. That vaulted the Cyclones back into the Top 25, but they ended the season with some close losses to finish fifth in the conference standings.

When the dust settled in the offseason, last year’s 7-6 mark ended up being a bit of a disappointment. The good news for the Cyclones, though, is that their losses from last season’s squad were relatively minimal in a lot of position groups. A hefty amount of offensive production is back, and Iowa State looks to be solid defensively once again. The real question is whether this team is ready to take that next leap to be a legitimate title contender under head coach Matt Campbell.

Projected 2020 Iowa State Depth Chart

QBBrock Purdy (Jr.)DEJaQuan Bailey (Sr.)
RBBreece Hall (So.)NGJoshua Bailey (Sr.)
TECharlie Kolar (Jr.)DEEnyi Uwazurike (Sr.)
WRLanden Akers (Sr.)WLBJake Hummel (Sr.)
WRTarique Milton (Jr.)MLBO’Rien Vance (Jr.)
WRDarren Wilson (So.)SLBMike Rose (Jr.)
LTJoey Ramos (Jr.)STARGreg Eisworth (Sr.)
LGTrevor Downing (So.)FSLawrence White (Sr.)
CCollin Newell (Jr.)SSArnold Azunna (So.)
RGRobert Hudson (Sr.)CBAnthony Johnson (Jr.)
RTSean Foster (Sr.)CBDatrone Young (Jr.)

Iowa State Offensive Outlook

Developing the offensive line might have been Campbell’s staunchest challenge at Iowa State, and replacing four full time starters won’t help things in 2020. Pencil in Sean Foster and Collin Newell at right tackle and center, respectively, as those two have 23 combined career starts in Ames. Trevor Downing should be a lock for the left guard spot, as he started there most of last season. Still, offensive line coach Jeff Myers will have his hands full in trying to keep this unit from taking a step back this year.

Of course, the Cyclones are set at quarterback, with Brock Purdy taking the reins once again. After throwing for almost 4,000 yards last season, Purdy enters the season as one of the best signal callers in the Big 12. Running back Breece Hall also returns as a sophomore. Expect big things from him after rushing for 897 yards in his freshman campaign.

The receiving corps has some questions, and there are vacancies to be filled at a couple of wideout positions. Receiver Tarique Milton is back, and might have a chance at 1,000 yards receiving in 2020. Charlie Kosar and Chase Allen, a tight end duo that’s one of the best in the country, also return, and with that type of pass-catching ability, Iowa State should be productive offensively if they can mitigate some inexperience up front.

Iowa State Defensive Outlook

With eight starters returning to the defense this season, the Cyclones will once again have a top notch defense, perhaps one that’s better than the 2019 squad. Finding a suitable nose guard up front might be toughest challenge for this team this year, and senior Joshua Bailey could very well step in to fill that role.

Expect Iowa State to be strong again in their linebacker corps, as both Mike Rose and O’Rien Vance back. Rose is one of the best ‘backers in the Big 12, and having a senior presence beside him in Jake Hummel will be helpful for this unit. All-Big 12 defensive back Greg Eisworth highlights the secondary, where the Cyclones should be stout once again. Returning starters Anthony Johnson and Lawrence White should also have two of the better seasons in the conference. They will have to find a new starter at safety, but expect this unit to see some improvement in 2020.

Iowa State Special Teams Outlook

Special teams was not especially a strength for the Cyclones last season, but they’ll have specialists returning across the board next season. Punter Joe Rivera probably stood out the most out of this group last season, and that would certainly be a position that could give Iowa State advantages in field position if development continues.

Final Thoughts

The biggest questions for Iowa State this year will be along both of their lines. With one starter back up front on offense, the Cyclones could struggle to markedly improve on last year’s offensive production. Brock Purdy is one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12, but one has to wonder what the ceiling is for this Iowa State team. As good as they’ve been, the Cyclones seem somewhat stuck at just above .500 every year.

The Cyclones will likely have another winning season, giving Matt Campbell historic success in Ames. Until Iowa State actually takes that next step to be a title contender, however, it’s going to be tough to project them there.

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